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Reader's Digest once knew -- and made sure others did too. That was before we were filled with marshmallow creme. This and much more.

6.7.06

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THE REAL DIGEST
Re: Clinton W. Taylor's Hard to Digest:

I wanted to add to Mr. Taylor's assessment of the Reader's Digest a few of my experiences with the magazine.

I worked in the Reader's Digest's Washington office for ten years (from 1980 to 1990) and came to appreciate the excellent reporting and great writing and editing by the RD staff, especially Ralph Bennett and Bill Schulz.

I have two stories to add. In 1982 I was trying to rent a house in Bethesda, Maryland and contacted the owner, who was from India. He asked me where I worked and I told him -- the Reader's Digest. He told me that I could certainly rent his house and then said that the Reader's Digest gave him his life in the U.S. He said that he learned about freedom and democracy from the Reader's Digest. I said, how so? He said that as a child in a small town in India all of the local newspapers and publications were owned by the government. The only publication he ever saw that was not government propaganda was the Reader's Digest. He said that he learned about the concept of democracy from the magazine, a concept he would not have known about otherwise. He said he learned about freedom and about the United States of America and vowed that someday he would live in the U.S. What a story. Until I heard his story it had never occurred to me that someone could go through their whole life and not know that democracies existed. How naive I was.

In that same time period, I knew a physician working at NIH who was from China. He told me a similar story about how the Reader's Digest had affected his knowledge of the world. He and his friends used to smuggle textbooks and the Reader's Digest into China (from Hong Kong) and then translate the English-language textbooks into Chinese. He said that he learned about the world beyond China from the Reader's Digest and that it was his ONLY source of worldly information. He didn't go so far as to say that he learned about freedom and democracy but he mentioned reading about other countries (e.g. Pompeii) and that he had no knowledge of historical events, other cultures, etc. until he read about these things in the Digest. We can only surmise that he learned, not only about places and things but also, about new ideas and possibilities that no other local publication could have given him.

I too, am sorry that the Digesthas become just another magazine. I would like to think that there are many young men and women around the world (especially in oppressed and closed countries) who would be able to see the Digestas a beacon of hope for the future. However, today the Digestmay only provide the newest profile of a Hollywood personality -- as a beacon of hope. How sad is that?

My only hope is that sites like yours' and TCS will reach these young people and give readers the kind of "dogged" reporting of traditional and conservative values that the Digest did so well for so many years.
-- Nancy B. Carothers
Silver Spring, Maryland

SOFT-CENTERED
Re: Paul Beston's Don't Flinch:

I've lived too long in the remote wilds of New Mexico! "Fluffernutter?" Thank you, Mr. Beston, for increasing my vocabulary. This one failed my spell-checker, like so many other words I find at TAS. But I did a Google search that came up with "a peanut butter sandwich with marshmallow creme." I wonder if "fluffernutter" will eventually rank up there with "spot on"?
-- Nelson Ward
Ribera, New Mexico

Many Americans need to grow up and get a grip on themselves in their reacting to movies like United 93. We hear cute, sympathetic catchphrases like, "It's too soon, we are not healed yet, and the wounds are still open." Come on America, this isn't the stuff that has made the United States the nation that it is today.

This victimizing, Prozac-popping mentality didn't create the Declaration of Independence, didn't win WWI and WWII. This nation was created out of strong wills, and religious values and the typical American attitude of "get it done no matter what or who gets in the way."

Americans have freed millions upon millions of the world's citizens from tyranny and enslavement from murderous regimes. We have fed those who have been hungry; we have treated those who have been sick, we have provided shelter where there was none, and we have replaced despair with hope and self-respect. And this wasn't done by whining on the physiatrist's couch "it's just too soon." It was done with good old American determination, grit, and spirit that is the hallmark of being an American, and I'll be damned if I let anyone take that away from me or my fellow Americans.

A little advice for Americans who think movies like United 93 is too soon: get out of the pit of despair and self-imposed misery, stand tall, and stare this nation's threat square in the eyes, accept it for truly what it is and defeat it. Bottom line: just be an American like the millions of Americans who have preceded you that defeated this nation's enemies. Rest assured that you won't be alone because I'll be there right beside you. That is what being an American is.
-- Melvin L. Leppla, SSgt. USMC Retired

I find it interesting how the "flinchy" media wall-papered us with commentary about how we're "not ready" for a film like United 93. I'll admit that it is difficult to see trained terrorists hiding amongst us attacking folks that don't have the weaponry or equal training to fight back. At least the Germans and the Japanese wore uniforms and most "rules of engagement" were recognized.

But then these same "critics" review all sorts of "slasher" films showing innocent teens and adults getting hacked up, shot, and meeting otherwise savage and brutal deaths from an acknowledged (albeit scripted) evil doer and experience joy at being entertained.

This is simply another illustration of the left's wish of a world that "should be" and failing once again to acknowledge that real evil exists and the difficult choices we must make daily to preserve and perpetrate freedom.
-- P. Aaron Jones
Huntington Woods, Michigan

Thank you for this thoughtful article. But I'm writing to say that any connection between embracing the entertaining violence from Hollywood and having courage in case of practical need escapes me.
-- Vaun Waddell

AUTOBAHN TRAFFICKING
Re: Manon McKinnon Germany Gets Its Kicks:

You may be inundated with mail after certain of your readers see this article. During the 1970s when our family was stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army prostitution was legal.

There was a brothel by the Autobahn with a huge lighted sign: "Sex mit heart." It was visible from a long distance and located on 20 Mark Strasse where the prostitutes stood alongside the road -- the road leading to the kaserne where the commissary and PX were located.

At that time, if prostitution was not legal, it certainly was not under wraps!
-- Judy Beumler
Louisville, Kentucky

Prostitution and abortion will ensure that Germans are a minority in their own land in the 21st century. Can't say it bothers me.
-- David Govett
Davis, California

DEFENSE OF DIVORCE ACTS
Re: Philip Klein's Marriage and the States:

I wonder if Mr. Klein would limit his moral legislation probes to homosexuality when Jesus Christ's main (and arguably only) concern was divorce among heterosexuals. Herewith one of several places where the New Testament gospel writers discuss Jesus' position:

"And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him: is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? Tempting him...And he saith unto them: Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery." -- Mark 10:2-12

So, let's see... the institution of marriage was threatened by President Reagan, Bob Dole, Sen. George Allen, Sen. Christopher Bond, Sen. Hutchison, Sen. McConnell, Newt Gingrich, etc. and etc. What about legislation to prevent the likes of these GOP luminaries from harming the sacred institution?
-- Peter Metrinko
Chantilly, Virginia

In Philip Klein's article "Marriage and the States," he asks whether the proposed amendment to ban same-sex marriage is necessary or is the issue better left to the states. His argument seems redundant. Remember, it takes three-fourths of the states to pass a constitutional amendment. The reason for the amendment is to keep the Supreme Court from going over the heads of the voters. The courts can't overturn a constitutional amendment -- at least not yet.
-- Mike McCoy

THE OTHER NEW YORK PIE
Re: Jed Babbin's Michael Chertoff Interviewed:

Mr. Babbin avers that Mr. Chertoff is a nice man, a good man, a smart man. I am perfectly prepared to accept Mr. Babbin's judgment in this regard. However, as Jed writes, the department is a mess. We are not protected to the extent that we ought to be. We are no longer experiencing an illegal immigration -- it is an illegal alien invasion. If the abomination of a bill that the Senate passed were to become law, the DOHS couldn't begin to even start to commence to enforce the supposed border control provisions. All this tells me is that the root of the problem does NOT lie exclusively at the feet of Secretary Chertoff. No, the root of the problem goes significantly above Secretary Chertoff's pay grade. As such, the problem will not even begin to get addressed with a solution until after January of 2009. VOTE BOOOSH FOR PRESIDENT OF MEXICO!
-- Ken Shreve

I think the central problem with DOHS grants is the whole concept of taxing all the people at the Federal level to subsidize the residents of one city, even a large one like New York City. With New York City getting 18 percent of the pie, that amount would cover only five other STATES if applied equally. Given that New York City is one of the most expensive places to live and has one of the highest per capita tax rates in the country, why can't they pay for their own security? It gets old bailing out New York City every few years. They have taxed themselves into Utopia so it stands to reason they should be able to tax themselves into security. Think about it -- this whole process creates winners and losers in the minds of those that don't get a part of the pie. New Yorkers should be embarrassed to bring this up, but then again, when has a New Yorker been above dropping to the low common denominator in order to get someone else's money.
-- Thom Bateman
Newport News, Virginia

DAMNING DETERMINISM
Re: Doug Bandow's "I Just Had to Do It":

Irony of ironies! Wasn't an antecedent to Roe v. Wade about a Connecticut couple who couldn't get condoms (or some such contraceptive device) and then sued the government for the right to do so? A little murky on details, but you get the idea.

Wasn't Robert Bork "Borked" for -- among other things -- threatening to interject the government into the bedroom?

So here we are, 40,000,000 dead babies later, and Bush gets reamed for not being in the bedroom to prevent an unwanted pregnancy and for not making a post-coital contraceptive device available.

Besides 40,000,000 dead babies, what has Roe accomplished?
-- Donald Palmer
Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania

A perfect double entendre for a typical liberal determinist.
-- Mike Showalter
Austin, Texas

CROCKERFIGHT CONTINUED...
Re: Doug Welty's letter (under "Still Not Budging") in Reader Mail's A Bad Mood Worsens and Brandon Crocker's Room for Compromise?:

This is in reply to the yuppie Mr. Doug Welty's letter to TAS. Mr. Welty says "Let's see how all these fire-breathing 'deport-'em-all' types like it when it costs $150 to have their lawns mowed, $300 to have their houses cleaned, $15,000 to have their siding painted or a new roof put on, and there's a six-month wait to get that backyard deck built by good old legal, all-American, fingerprinted and photographed, English-only certified laborers...plus tax."

I guess, Doug, not being a yuppie, I don't even understand the question. Why would you hire somebody else to clean your own house, or mow your lawn, or do your siding -- unless you have a three-story McMansion of course?

Yes the siding job had a learning curve, but ten days work and $1,800 in supplies (Hardie-plank, wood, screws, caulk, and paint) later and I'm good for 50 years (so says the siding company web-site, and of course, as we all know, it's got to be right if it's on the World Wide Web -- just like your asinine letter!)

Yes, self-reliance used to be an American trait. I can tell you more about it, Mr. Welty, but you'd better step back, as I'm fixin' to burn a hole in your bowtie.
-- Jimmy Antley
P.S. Taxes? Whatchoo talkin' 'bout Willis?

"PC" EUPHEMISMS
Re: Lawrence Henry's Why We Call It "Amnesty":

Calling those poor people "illegitimate transfer agents" is just plain wrong! It might hurt their feelings! Obviously, they should be called "undocumented transfer agents." Some other new "PC" terms:

"Unlicensed Pharmaceutical Distributors."

"Unofficial Juvenile Sex Education Instructors."

"Uninvited Lovers."

We do have to be sensitive to the feelings of these poor people. We simply must begin to appreciate the terrible problems they have, and try to aid them in fitting into society without changing their unique perspective. And if you believe all that, I've got some bottom land to sell you. Just don't ask what it's at the bottom of.
-- Michael Fagan
Las Vegas, Nevada

MORE THANKS TO BEN
Re: Ben Stein's Keeping the Faith:

As a Marine from the "Cold War" era, I never saw combat. I trained for almost four years to go to war. Ready at a moment's notice to drop all and go fight for freedom anywhere in the world. I had to listen to the filthy media bias then, and as I grow older it gets harder to listen to. These men and women of the armed forces are heroes. They sacrifice their freedoms and security to ensure others keep theirs. I am so grateful to Mr. Ben Stein for such powerful words. He has stated I solid word what most Americans have felt for 30 years, but have had so few platforms available to voice these feelings. Thank you, Ben Stein, for speaking up and thank you, my brothers and sisters in arms for standing on the frontlines.
-- Roy R. McMillan II, USMC
Missouri

Every now and then I pull up as many of Mr. Stein's columns as I have time for. Some of them make me cry even though I know them by heart. He gets right to the meaning of life in what he writes. No matter how many people hate the president, have antiwar rallies, foam at the mouth and just keep saying we must "give peace a chance" there are always people somewhere on this planet treating others with contempt and murder. I have finally understood that since we have a country dedicated to treating all people equally, and expect our military to do the same, then our warriors are better trained, kinder, and have more compassion than our foes. I do not care what argument is put forth by the left. Haditha is an anomaly and not the norm. We will always have to have soldiers. I am just so glad they were trained in the United States.

President Bush is not perfect. For some reason he loves spending my money as much as the Democrats do. Is it impossible for our leaders to have ANY self control? So what if they don't get reelected. They may actually do something meaningful with their lives away from Washington (I can understand why Senator Kennedy might fear this). In the meantime they could get control of the budget and shrink that bloated bureaucracy that has more employees than any business. In fact most people stay angry at Congress and the president. They should take a really good look at the bureaucrats who are still in Washington years after our elected officials have left. These people then get to take laws passed and do exactly what they want to do with them. They are faceless and anonymous and they run the country.

Why do we need a federal agency on education? My state, Georgia, does poorly regardless of who is in office. Maybe if we could make our own decisions we might do better. With new technology we could keep our sights on our local politicians and make sure they spend out money wisely. Why do we need Health and Human Services? By the time my small tax contribution gets put in one pocket or the next the child needing it gets maybe a dime. I suggest we all look up the Constitution on a regular basis. No where does it say have the biggest government possible.
-- KBC

GRATITUDE
Re: Ben Stein's They Did God's Work:

The remarks delivered by Ben Stain on Saturday evening in Arlington, Virginia, at the Memorial Day weekend seminar and grief camp of TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) were extremely moving. Please pass on to him that he is truly a "sheepdog" among the "wolves" and that it is great American's like him that make serving this nation a pleasure and privilege.
-- Brian C Adams, SMSgt, USAF.
Fabrication Flight Chief
552 EMS/MXMF
DSN 884-5501

I had read your Memorial Day Editorial of May 25, 2006 -- it made me cry for the deep feeling created inside my heart. I always think about the great and big sacrifice of the good Americans for us, we are the Iraqis who were desperate for our freedom from the biggest monster of dictatorship in the world, only the Americans could light up the hope in our hearts. They gave us the lives of their loved ones, so we can be free and set the right democracy, so we can speak up in public about our ideas and desires of having perfect way of life like other free people.

I pray every day that the USA will have its mission in Iraq very successful to tell those people who do not want to understand and believe, that the loss of the lives of America's beloved ones were not for nothing. I pray too for my people to be cleverer and more reasonable in order to taste the real feeling of freedom achieved for us by our liberators, the brave Americans.

I am Fatima Fleifel, an Iraqi interpreter, worked for those brave men and women from April 2003 until December 2005 in Baghdad. I traveled with them to most of the Iraqi provinces, including the top dangerous, trying my best to show them my gratitude for the kind and delicate treatment I received from them all. Believe me, there are millions of Iraqis who feel the same for them, but they are still prisoners of the high barrier made by the terrorists.

The U.S. media should not make out of the small mistakes big excuses to say the war in Iraq was for nothing. It was definitely required by us, we needed that help, and not any Arab responded, not any Muslim paid attention, only the brave and the kindest people I had ever met.
-- Fatima Fleifel

CALLED A COWARD?
Re: David Holman's Kerry Yellow:

"Jack Murtha called for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq last fall, a single charge of cowardice made him the victim -- instead of the troops whose mission he undermined."

The conventional wisdom seems to accept that Rep. Murtha was called a coward. I contend that the point of the statement was that Murtha was NOT a coward. He was being reminded that he was a Marine -- not a coward.

The statement should better have been read to mean something like this: Marines don't cut and run; cowards do. You are a Marine. You are not a coward. You don't cut and run.

I realize I'm fighting a losing battle on this one.
-- Craig Smith
Jacksonville, Illinois

David Holman replies:
Thank you for your note. While Rep. Murtha was not directly called a coward, the way you frame the statement logically implies it.

During the debate on withdrawal in the House last fall, Jean Schmidt relayed a message message from a retired Marine colonel in her district. "He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: that cowards cut and run. Marines never do." That also logically implies that Murtha is a coward. He advocates cutting and running. By Schmidt's/the Marine's statement, those who cut and run are not Marines, but cowards. Murtha is for cutting and running; therefore, he is a coward. It is accurate to say Murtha was called a coward, if only through a less rude way of saying it.

HADITHA HEAT
Re: Ben Stein's Keeping the Faith and Michael Tobias' letter in Reader Mail's The New Terminators under "Jury Still Out":

I would like to thank Mr. Tobias for putting into better words my thoughts about Iraq also. In my last post, I stated I was for pulling out of Iraq and I still am. I believe we should pull out because we have neglected to prosecute this war in the manner it should be. I can't see wasting American lives for what is becoming a political quagmire since Bush and company don't seem to have the stomach for pursuing this war as it should be. Bush's mistakes have been hashed over in this publication pretty good so there's no need to recount them. The problem is that he still refuses to adequately prepare for what is going to be a long engagement and probably an expanded one, if Iran keeps rattling their sword. He also has the enemies elsewhere who are taking advantage of discontent in this nation (as enemies will do) as Mr. Tobias pointed out. All this points to a president who went to war with the noblest of intentions, got himself bogged down in a victory and occupation. Then retreated behind his followers, coming forth only when the pressure from the right forced him too, then retreating again. Either run this war with all the vigor it needs, or bring the warriors home to fight the other battles. Where is Teddy Roosevelt when you need him?
-- Pete Chagnon

NOT ALONE
Re: Martin N. Tirrell's letter in Reader Mail's The New Terminators under "Down, Right, and Angry":

Mr. Tirrell's comment "There is no one old enough on this site to speak of WWII with a whole lot of first hand knowledge" is an invalid assertion. At an enormously healthy 83 years of age, having been born in 1924, I can remember the roaring twenties, the depression thirties, and, as a Marine Corps sergeant, I can recall, "first hand knowledge" with three years and three months WWII service. I recall seeing President Roosevelt in person, as he reviewed our platoon formation at Paris Island in March 1943. And, I recall having breakfast with the First Lady, Eleanor, when she visited our Marine base in 1944. And, perhaps the most important thing I learned in WWII, is that the most dangerous thing in battle is a 2nd lieutenant. And today, I have come to believe John Kerry very aptly fits the description perfectly. He obviously was and is a very dangerous man. I noted the comment trashing hunting, and attributed it to absolute ignorance, even if the party does have a Texas license to raise rabbits. I have been widowed now for nearly 23 years, so hunting deer, shooting dove and quail, has been an enormously invigorating contribution to the good health of my daily life, with a main meal of deer meat or bird breast each day. I give my friends the wild turkeys and pigs, as I care not for that meat. So, when I hear ignorant comments about hunting, I know they know not of what they speak, even if their voice lives in Texas. So, next time you know there is no one old enough, first, ask for a show of hands.
-- Raymond Barton
Fort Worth, Texas

WHAT'S THE PLAN?
Re: Andrew Cline's The Task at Hand:

Excellent. Any ideas of how to get these points across and enacted?
-- J.O.

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